Author Topic: Bottle conditioning really big beers  (Read 435 times)

Offline Visor

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 552
Bottle conditioning really big beers
« on: December 22, 2019, 05:04:08 PM »
  I decided against hijacking the thread about carbonation with this query. Other than an occasional batch that turns into volcano beer months after bottling, I rarely have problems with bottle conditioning, once in a while I'll have a batch that takes an extra week or so to carbonate, but not often. Big, high gravity/high ABV beers though are another matter, it doesn't seem to matter what I try they either take months to carbonate or they don't carb up at all. For more normal beers I'll inoculate my priming spiese with an once or so of harvested yeast, with big beers I forego the spiese and use simpler sugars, either corn or cane. I've tried using harvested yeast from the same batch, fresh properly rehydrated yeast of the same type that fermented the beer, and fresh CBC-1 properly rehydrated, all to no avail. I've thought about trying EC-1118 cuz from my experience it handles high ABV better than most lager & ale yeasts, but have concerns because FME it ferments to lower final gravity in the same wort than most beer yeasts, if it ferments the bottled beer a few points lower, then when coupled with whatever priming sugar is added I'm afraid I'll have bottle bombs.
   I bottled an IRIBA on 11/19 that had been in a bourbon barrel for a year, using fresh US-05 and it is still essentially flat. Interestingly, I bottled a batch of barrel beer last spring, the 1st bottle exploded in cool storage months after bottling but the rest of the batch is seriously under carbonated.
   Anyone have a brilliant solution to my problem?
I spent most of my money on beer, tools and guns, the rest I foolishly squandered on stupid stuff!

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 21446
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • Dennybrew
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2019, 05:18:48 PM »
What kind of ABV are you talking about?  I've used 05 in 10-12% beers and it's worked fine.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline dannyjed

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1137
  • Toledo, OH
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2019, 06:25:21 PM »
The batch where one bottle exploded and the rest is considerably flat could be a clue. Maybe the sugar solution is not getting thoroughly mixed well?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Dan Chisholm

Offline Visor

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 552
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2019, 04:02:28 PM »
What kind of ABV are you talking about?  I've used 05 in 10-12% beers and it's worked fine.

   I usually start having problems when the ABV is much over 8 1/2% - 9%, with FG's in the high 20's and higher making things worse. I have had some high ABV/high FG beers that did eventually carb up to some extent, maybe a more detailed rereading of my notes will provide an insight as to where my problem or problems lie. 
I spent most of my money on beer, tools and guns, the rest I foolishly squandered on stupid stuff!

Offline Visor

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 552
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2019, 04:17:41 PM »
The batch where one bottle exploded and the rest is considerably flat could be a clue. Maybe the sugar solution is not getting thoroughly mixed well?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

   While that is a possibility, I'm inclined to think that's not what's going on. When I use sugar instead of spiese I pull a Quart or so of beer, heat it on the stove to around 120* and fully dissolve the sugar before cooling the priming to room temp, inoculating with whatever yeast source I am using, fixing an airlock and letting it set until I can verify that fermentation is taking place. Once I know the yeast is active I pitch the prime to the conical FV and thoroughly mix it in, let it set for an hour or so then bottle from the FV. When using spiese I simply inoculate it with yeast, from there on the process is the same.
  The bottle that exploded was the 1st bottle, which usually gets the majority of yeast which settled out, those bottles are the most likely to be over carbed, regardless of whether the beer is a monster or a lighter table beer. Cleaning up a wasted 750 bomber of a beer in which I'd invested so much time, money and effort , and smelling that heavenly combination of big beer and whiskey barrel made me want to cry.
I spent most of my money on beer, tools and guns, the rest I foolishly squandered on stupid stuff!

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 21446
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • Dennybrew
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2019, 05:08:03 PM »
What kind of ABV are you talking about?  I've used 05 in 10-12% beers and it's worked fine.

   I usually start having problems when the ABV is much over 8 1/2% - 9%, with FG's in the high 20's and higher making things worse. I have had some high ABV/high FG beers that did eventually carb up to some extent, maybe a more detailed rereading of my notes will provide an insight as to where my problem or problems lie.

I got nothing.  That's completely outside of my experience.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline rx1970

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2019, 03:26:36 PM »
Our club, HOOCH, brews a batch of Samiclaus clone each year.  We bottle the previous year's batch on brew day, usually on or near St. Nicholas day in December. With ABV around 14% we don't bother to prime. We just divvy up the bottles for each member to enjoy. Some bottles may have a slight pop later but little or no foam. Still a great beer! This year it was best of show of 402 entries at the Pittsburgh TRASH competition.

Offline dannyjed

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1137
  • Toledo, OH
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2019, 03:42:35 PM »
The last Tripel (9.5 %)that I made took a long time to carb and it never really got to the level of carbonation that I was hoping for. My latest Barleywine (12.2%)carbonated up after a couple of weeks just fine. I don’t add yeast at bottling, just some priming sugar. This got me thinking about how different yeast strains react to refermentation in the bottle. I don’t bottle condition much, but it seems to me that I have had more inconsistent results with Belgian yeast than American yeast. I know this doesn’t help your problem, maybe too many variables to consider.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Dan Chisholm

Offline Greg Turley

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2020, 11:48:12 AM »
I bottle my tripels typically around 9 abv. I cold crash for 2 weeks at 35F adding gelatin week 1 and biofine clear week 2  I then prime in my bottling bucket. I stir gently for 1 minute. Let it sit for 10 minutes. stir gently for 30 seconds then bottle. I then heat to 80F for 1 week then leave at room temperature for 2 weeks. I do not add additional yeast. They are carbonated by week 3, typically sooner. I typically use 7 oz sugar for a 5 gallon batch and bottle in Belgian Bottles

Offline Philip McCaugherty

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2020, 12:28:33 AM »

[/quote]When I use sugar instead of spiese I pull a Quart or so of beer, heat it on the stove to around 120* and fully dissolve the sugar before cooling the priming to room temp, inoculating with whatever yeast source I am using, fixing an airlock and letting it set until I can verify that fermentation is taking place. Once I know the yeast is active I pitch the prime to the conical FV and thoroughly mix it in, let it set for an hour or so then bottle from the FV. When using spiese I simply inoculate it with yeast, from there on the process is the same.
  The bottle that exploded was the 1st bottle, which usually gets the majority of yeast which settled out, those bottles are the most likely to be over carbed, regardless of whether the beer is a monster or a lighter table beer. Cleaning up a wasted 750 bomber of a beer in which I'd invested so much time, money and effort , and smelling that heavenly combination of big beer and whiskey barrel made me want to cry.
[/quote]
Is it possible you are going way overboard on your priming methods? That seems like an awful lot just to add some sugar to a batch. Have you tried the simple method, i.e. dissolve 2/3's of a cup (or however much you need) of dextrose (I think you guys call it corn sugar) in hot water, add it to the batch, stir in well, leave to settle for a short while and then bottle?

I have brewed quite a few 8%+ beers and never had any issues with under carbing. Nor have I ever had any bottle bombs.

There is an other option; you could keg your beer and force carb.

Offline Visor

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 552
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2020, 05:46:25 PM »
   Last question first, cuz I don't want to have to run downstairs every time I want another beer, but more importantly cuz I'd need 30 or 40 kegs and associated cooler space for the beers I typically have on hand.
   Dissolving sugar in water or spiese is kind of a 6 of one, half dozen of the other deal, same amount of effort either way.
   Since originally posting this, I've been sampling my way through my collection of "big" beers and thus far all seem to be seriously under carbonated. I say seem to be, because the other evening I had one of the most recently bottled [Nov. 19th] barrel aged beers. After hastily pouring it and noting the utter lack of a head I remembered that it is one beer that really benefits from a tiny pinch of salt. Salt added I gently stirred it in, poof, an inch or more of instant, white, rock hard head. Maybe I need to reassess my expectations of the behavior of dissolved CO2 in high gravity/high alcohol beers.
I spent most of my money on beer, tools and guns, the rest I foolishly squandered on stupid stuff!

Offline Philip McCaugherty

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2020, 06:59:03 PM »
What sort of bottles are you using? If they are glass, are you using swing tops or crown caps? If crown caps, how are you putting the caps on? If glass and crown caps, what sort of glass bottle is it?

This may seem very basic and you seem like you know what you are doing but I realised quite quickly which glass bottles to keep and which to throw away. I was using a hand capper and found that the bottles with a bigger collar (e.g. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottle) where much easier to cap, felt like they took the cap much better and had a greater level of crimping. Compare this to trying to put a cap on a Corona bottle and it's night and day. It is actually almost impossible to do with my hand capper (the shape of the neck doesn't help). But that style of lip and almost no collar is not the ideal bottle to use. I always felt that the cap was never on 'as much' as it was with a Sierra Nevada bottle.

Again, this is taking it back to basics but I can't figure out why your big stouts aren't carbing up. Could the caps be an issue?

Offline Visor

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 552
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2020, 04:15:43 PM »
   In answer to your question, I use a wide variety of crown cap bottles, from Red Hooks on the stubby end to 25.9 oz. bombers on the big end. My capper is one More Beer lists as "heavy duty", it's Italian made and has a "Griffon" label on it, but I've also seen it listed as a Ferrari. Interestingly, I had problems with Corona and Pacifico bottles [which are identical except for glass color] in that about 1 in 10 would hang up in the capper and then suddenly be expelled by the internal spring with such force that a coupe bottles shattered when they hit the base. After a while I quit using Coronas and Pacificos unless I had nothing else to use. After about 5,000 bottles though I think the capper is finally broken in cuz for the past several months I've been able cap the Mexican glass without hang-fires. That's been a big relief for me, as Pacificos make up nearly 1/3 of my bottle hoard. 
   I think I can say with near certainty that bottles and caps aren't the problem, I use the same bottles and priming calculations for big beers as I do for any other beer, and big beers are the only ones that are prone to under carbonation. Or apparent under carbonation. I'm beginning to wonder if lab testing would show that these beers have far more dissolved CO2 than amount of head indicates. Unfortunately there are no labs around here, and I'm not going to spring for a Zahm at this time.
I spent most of my money on beer, tools and guns, the rest I foolishly squandered on stupid stuff!

Offline Philip McCaugherty

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Bottle conditioning really big beers
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2020, 10:08:56 PM »
Ah, the Red Baron capper. Always thought they looked better that the black ones.

I would change your priming method for the next imp stout. Take it back to basics. 2/3 cup of brewing sugar in 19L of beer, dissolved in hot water and mixed in with your batch before bottling. I would also use as many good swing top bottles as possible. For me, they hold bottle pressure better, are easier to use and, if you use Grolsch bottles, are made from slightly thicker glass so should be less likely to explode.

But it sure is a mystery why they aren't carbing up.